Houston Dining: A Restaurant Tour That Covers the Gamut (Except BBQ)

The foodie scene did not disappoint. Our tour includes some upscale Mexican street food, a tasting menu supreme, a global brunch, another healthy brunch, and a gastropub. With all that eatin’ we decided to steer away from brisket, next time!

The Pass & Provisions: I always suggest, when touring somewhere new, to choose the area’s best restaurant to set the tone on day one. In this case we chose The Pass, whose tasting menu had the wow factor. A concept I truly admired was the Champagne Cart, which came with an assortment of bubbly, that kicked off the dinner. Every course was surprising, gorgeously presented, and a wonderful mix of flavors and textures. 1st Course: King Crab with watermelon & tomato gazpacho was a refreshing start, and the surprise was the gazpacho was in gel form. 2nd Course: Fish Taco with kombu-snapper-uni-avocado came in a crispy amorphic shell, and our first panna cotta of the meal, in this case savory. Fantastic. 3rd Course: Belly Lamb-Tuna-Pork was served on a mini-stove of sorts, and cooked instantly. Quite cool. 4th Course: Rabbit with wild bay leaf-favas-morels-jus was my fave of the dinner. The rabbit was extremely flavorful and moist. 5th Course: Rose sherbet with rhubarb-vanilla-ligonberry, our second dose of creamy panna cotta, hit all the right notes for a not-too-sweet or heavy dessert. Imagine all five courses for $65, unheard of! Highly recommend this spot for its friendly and formal service, and absolute minimal design. The front door to the space is a treat to enter. The immense, thick door is pushed back, rather than turned, for a dramatic entry.

Benjy’s: A nice sunny spot for brunch with a global menu. A fantastic assortment of herbal teas started the meal,  with excellent fruity selections (blueberry hibiscus). Our table opted for an order of the cauliflower, which continues the trend of trying it wherever we go—for comparison purposes! This one came with a lovely herbed tahini sauce, and crunchy pistachios. Since we were officially in the south, I knew I had to order grits—the richness of the sauce was complemented by a light offering of shrimp. Excellent, cross it off the list. Other dishes we enjoyed: a NY style bagel and lox; Salmon Bowl with a lively mix of coconut, spinach, apple, and seeds (a perfectly healthy choice); Beef Migas rounded out the meal. Loved the cushiony tufted dining chairs and airy feel of the space. Our server was the best!

Xochi: Downtown houses a new Mexican delight. Xochi offered a tantalizing selection of upscale Mexican street food. Erin tried one of the TLAYUDAS, an iconic street food dish of Oaxaca—thin tortillas cooked over wood. It came loaded with spicy chorizo, queso fresco, beans, and fresh veggies. Quite the portion! A section of the menu featured 2 for $22, a deal and a delight. My 2 choices were the flash-seared tuna, cucumber, jicama, mangosteen, mole vinaigrette, lime caviar, PLUS a lovely little tart, aka Memela filled with pork rib, beans, cream and salsa. A lovely mix, the masa pancake which held it together was flaky and rich. Bob stayed on the light side with a crudo of sea bass, with spicy fresh accompaniment. His large salad housed avocado, mangosteen, and chia atop greens, tossed in a tomatillo vinaigrette. It was great to sit outside under a high roof, though when the days get hotter, the inside of the space was cool and beautifully outfitted in raw wood, bleached stools and tables and modern Mexican-patterned room divider.

Holly’s: True Southern hospitality reigns here in a room of ample proportions and finery. Our fab dinner started with house-baked rolls served with 2 lovely dips. Yes, they tasted as good as they look, and were served hot, fluffy and soft. Appetizers included the Seafood Mezcal Martini, a lucious green gazpacho with avocado and honeydew (a fave!), and a crabcake sans fillers, only the best bits of crab served with cream. For the main course, our Houston host wholely recommended the whole fish for two. What arrived on the table was the largest fish I have ever seen in a restaurant ( I guess Texas’ reputation for large things continues!). It was cooked to perfection, and did serve 3, with a side of rice and thai sauces.

Tiny’s No. 5: Brunch is served here during the week(!) and was a popular choice for surrounding River Oaks couples, retirees, and ladies with babies. The setting was serene and green, at this once landscaping business. The deal: order at the front, take a number and await delivery of a healthy dishes. Fresh squeezed juices, egg dishes, salads, turkey burgers, and thier famous cookie made for a wonderful start to the day.

Hunky Dory: Gastropubbing in Houston, we got pulled into the Heights. Our last night’s dinner, we shared apps of burratta supreme, plus a tender grilled octopus. Cocktails from the “on the board” were also seasonally delightful. Caesar salad came uncontructed, with anchovies draped over (please remove mine!). Entrees featured scallops and celery root puree. I had the grilled pork chop, which was thinly cut and mounded with a bell pepper raison mostarda and side of creamed corn. Excellent.

a Houston Home: Luckily we had the most gracious hosts for our stay. I was so impressed by their lovingly styled home, and foodie snacks supplied. Don’t get me started on the wine offerings! Dinner on Sunday night, which included the fam, started with charcuterie, then onto a shaved brussels sprout salad, followed by a slightly decadent and French inspired entree: Bistro Braised Chicken Thighs with craisins, Potatoes Au Gratin and Haricot Verts, in simple garlic and olive oil. The home made dessert was a light, and very moist cake with some cream and fresh strawberries. We were spoiled.